Monday, March 26, 2012

Stavanger Vinfest 2012

The annual wine festival known as Stavanger Vinfest is coming up on April 18th to April 21st. As usual Route de Vin will start the whole thing but unfortunately it is already sold out. Please take a look at the Stavanger Vinfest homepage http://www.stavangervinfest.no/ to see a list of participating restaurants and to see other events in connection with the festival.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Al Forno–decent Italian food in an informal atmosphere

photo 1This Italian restaurant is located in the middle of town and the concept seems to be a success as there are now 4 Al Forno’s around Stavanger  - I guess everyone enjoys some Italian food. I guess it didn’t start that great as the local food critic Tore Bruland gave it a pretty bad score. I went there on a Friday night with my wife and a friend – we had no reservation but they seemed to have lots of tables available and we chose to sit upstairs to avoid draft from the entrance door. Their menu is extensive and it contains all sort of variations of pasta and pizza – but their wine list is very,very limited. We were starving when we came in and we decided to go straight for the main course and I went for the Pizza Al Forno, Nikki went for the Gnocchi con carne and our friend went for Pizza frutti de mare.
photo 2My pizza was quite good – it was topped with a spicy sausage, a bit of artichokes, lots of cheese and it had been fried in their wooden fired oven I guess as the crust was crispy and a bit black. I love my pizza together with red wine so I very much enjoyed it. The gnocchi was not that great but there was nothing wrong with it or anything – it just seemed a bit boring. And our friend did not complain about her seafood pizza either – it was served with various seafood like shrimp, mussels and calamari. I went a bit overboard and went for the tiramisu for dessert after the meal – and that was also quite good but the portion was quite huge and it was served with a splash of whipped cream from a can. I’m not sure why they had to add that – the tiramisu is great and there is no need for whipped cream on the side. To round it of I asked them if they had limoncello and they were like “of course” Winking smile
Conclusion
photo 4If you like your Italian food and you just want an informal meal together with friends this could be a nice place to go. The food we had was pretty good and the service was OK. As we were about to leave a larger group came into have some food and that brought up the noise level considerably – with an open plan it can be a bit noisy there. It would have been great to see a proper wine list but I guess their main target group is not going to buy expensive wines anyway.  Most of the pizzas are from 150 to 200 kroner (25 to 35 USD) just to give you an idea about the price level. Check out http://pizzeria-alforno.no/ for more information and to read the entire menu. And here is the review from Tore Bruland: http://www.rogalandsavis.no/nyheter/article3129710.ece (NB Only in Norwegian).
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures
photo 3

Monday, March 19, 2012

5 course dinner at Café de France

IMG_7037There are not that many true fine dining places in Stavanger but I guess you can call Café de France this along with places like Nero, NB Sørensen 2. Etage and Renaa Restauranten (click on the links for my reviews). Café de France appeared in 1988 and after a few years they changed name (to Setra) but a couple of years back they moved back to the original Café de France name. The food is not necessarily French – it is just fine dining based on a European cuisine but I guess with focus on good ingredients. This review is based on a visit to the restaurant in March 2012.
IMG_7035Café de France is quite a small place located in what seems to be the basement of an ordinary house on Eiganesveien (just behind Radisson Blu Royal hotel). The restaurant logo is recognizable on the wall outside on the slightly pinkish house and when we arrived the front door was locked so we had to ring the doorbell and our host Emil Heimdal opened the door or greeted us welcome. After a bit of Valentine Rose champagne as an aperitif, we were ready to get to know Tuscany through some wine tasting. But I’m not going to focus on that in this review – let us talk about the food instead.
IMG_7034As I said, the place is quite small and there are only seats for like 35 people maximum and based on the video on the restaurant homepage, the kitchen looks tiny! But there is a nice atmosphere in the place with the neutral white painted walls, old wooden beams and some rather strange art works. The host Emil seems to keep him calm and is knowledgeable about both the food and wine that is presented.
IMG_7049We were starving after a long day so it was great when we got a selection of fresh bread. We also got a small starter before going into our 5 course meal. The small starter was a small piece of salmon with løyrom (not sure what that is in English), a soup and a pate. The salmon was excellent (even if I do prefer my fish fried/boiled/steamed etc) and the soup had a very, very rich seafood taste if remember correctly.
IMG_7051Our first dish was a cold plate of salad leaves, clip fish I guess and poached quail egg. The egg was perfect but the rest of the dish was a bit on the boring side. Keeping track of the dishes and taste is always a challenge when going to a place where you get so much good food but I’m trying my best to summarize the experience based on what I remember and the photos I have taken. Dish number two was also a fish dish: fried turbot with artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and a sort of block on mashed Jerusalem artichokes. The fish was great in taste and texture and I enjoy Jerusalem artichokes. But this block on mashed Jerusalem artichokes was very bland and maybe this portion of fish was a bit on the large side.
IMG_7053The next dish was a real treat – a big piece of foie gras. I guess it is not politically correct to enjoy this dish but from time to time it is a real treat to have this but only in small portions. The foie gras that we got was served on a piece of bread and with a fig, fig juice and some nuts. The foie gras was just right in my opinion but the portion was one of the largest that I have come across in a restaurant here in Stavanger and it can actually get too big as it is rich in taste.
IMG_7059After a small refreshing drink to clean the palate a bit we moved on to the main dish of the evening: chicken confit with cabbage(?), potato and onion. If you don’t know about confit, I guess it can be summarized by slowly boiling e.g. chicken in e.g. duck fat at low temperature for several hours and it was previously used as a preservation method. Slowly cooking the meat like this makes the meat very juicy and tender. And this dish was also very, very good and the chicken was just amazing.
IMG_7062To round of the evening we got a dessert where we got one piece of chocolate cake topped with a chocolate cream and cumquat and a raspberry sorbet I guess. The dessert was not the highlight of the evening but as I love my sweet stuff I didn’t have any problem finishing it together with some Vino Santo. The restaurant also has an excellent selection of cognac that you can enjoy along with the sweet stuff that is served as you round of the meal.
IMG_7065Conclusion: We were at Café de France from 6 pm to midnight and the place proved once again that it is one of the real fine dining restaurants in Stavanger. Some of the people I was there with was not totally Impressed and felt that the 5 course dinner was too fatty and not as good as what you can e.g. get at Renaa. But in my opinion we got a lovely 5 course meal with wine pairing (with wines taken from Italy) and the best dishes in my opinion were the foie gras and the chicken main dish. A big thanks to our host Emil for giving us an entertaining introduction to various wines of Tuscany based on Sangiovese grapes. If you are going to celebrate a special occasion you should consider an evening at Café de France. You can read more about the restaurant on the restaurant homepage on http://www.cafedefrance.no/ . A 5 course meal is about 800 NOK (140 USD) and if you want wine to go along with the food you have to pay an additional 750 NOK (130 USD) but you can also go for a three course meal.
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures
IMG_7040 IMG_7038
IMG_7050 IMG_7055

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lille Taste of Indian–new Indian restaurant in town

photo 2As I have said before, it is always good to see new places open in downtown Stavanger. This time a new Indian restaurant called “Lille Taste of Indian” (a bit weird combination of Norwegian and English name) has opened in Stavanger and it is located on the corner of Øvre Holmegate and Kirkegaten. I’m not sure if this place is jinxed or not but businesses never seem to last here. I think it has been clothing stores, bars and now a restaurant.
photo 1Anyway, we went there one day after a workout just to check it out. I think this is a branch of a restaurant with the same name located in Bergen as the menu seems to be similar. I’m also a bit fascinated by the name – when you look outside the place they have used “Lille taste of Indian” one place and “Little taste of Indian” another place. Shouldn’t it just be “Little taste of India”? But hey, what’s in a name – I’m just glad to see that there is an additional Indian place in town so we can try something apart from India Tandoori, Delhi and Mogul India. You can read a review of Mogul India here.
photo 3Luckily they had a table when we got there as I was starving and we got the extensive menu pretty fast. Reading the menu was not that easy on the other hand with the dim lighting and the photos of Indian food as a background on some of the menu pages – but that is why you have an iPhone with a “flashlight” built in, isn’t it ;-) I went for one of my favorites: the Murg Saag (chicken in a spinach sauce). In the menu it said that you could choose how spicy you wanted the meal (graded from mild to vindaloo or something like that) but when we ordered we totally forgot about it and the waiter never asked us.  We also went for some naan bread: I wanted the garlic naan and Nikki went for vegetable naan. The food was served pretty fast and I guess it can have something to do with the fact that there were not that many people in there.
photo 4The meals were presented in small pots on top of a candle and that is a good idea to make sure that you keep the dish warm. We were however a bit disappointed when we tried the meal – my dish was not bad at all but it was not spicy at all so I assume that I got the mildest version. Next time I will be sure to ask for it a bit spicier. The naan bread on the other hand was not good at all – way too dry in my opinion but I’m not an expert in the field of course but I have had better naan bread in other restaurants. So all in all we were not totally crazy about this place but I’m willing to give it another try in the near future and then I will be sure to ask for the meal to be a bit spicier.  The main dishes seem to range from 170 to 200 Norwegian kroner (about 30 USD to 35 USD) just to give you an idea about the price level.
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Renaa: Xpress–the new breakfast/lunch place in town

interior2 Note that this place has closed down :-(

In earlier articles I have written about Renaa Restauranter. Just to summarize it: Renaa Restauranter is split into two sections: Matbaren upstairs which is an informal place to have some good food and Renaa Restauranten (downstairs) which is one of the few fine dining gourmet restaurants in Stavanger. Just a few weeks back Mr. Renaa expanded and opened a new third section called Renaa: Xpress. This new place will focus on breakfast and lunch so it closes at 5 PM. I have had the pleasure of going there a few times already and they serve a selection of sandwiches, soups, smoothies, juice, Danish pastry etc.
ham and cheeseThe first time I went there I had a sandwich based on focaccia bread and it was with Stavanger ham (delivered by the local butcher in town Idsøe) and tallegio cheese. The sandwich is served on a wooden trey and the cutlery is in a disposable wooden version. The only problem with the sandwich was that there was quite a lot of mustard on it and I’m not a huge fan. So the next time I came there I asked if I could get it without mustard and that was not a problem as there are chefs on duty that actually makes stuff ;-) Without the mustard the sandwich was great and I have also tried the one with pancetta and salsa verde. Another great thing about this place is the power smoothies…one example is cucumber/avocado/apple/spinach. Sounds kinda weird but it was actually quite good.
caffe mocchaThey also serve Danish pastry – like croissant, pain au chocolate but they also have blueberry muffins, scones etc. From what I have tasted it seems like the products are fresh and made with good ingredients. The only thing that hasn’t been a huge success so far is the salad that Nikki tried the other day – she found it to be very boring. They also serve coffee of course and I have tried the caffe mocha and it seems like I have finally found a great replacement for Charlie Brown that was closed a few years back. The caffe mocha here is served in a glass, it is made with chocolate sauce and served with real whipped cream – just the way I like it Smile
selectionRenaa: Xpress is located right next to Matbaren and you can access it from Breitorget. It is a tiny place so there are only like 20-25 seats inside but you can also sit within Breitorget. On cold days it can be a bit cold inside Xpress – maybe it would be an idea to install a self closing mechanism on the entrance door ;-) Anyway, I like this place – I think the sandwiches are good and the caffe mocha is great. So there might be a chance that this will be the regular hangout spot on Saturdays after a good workout Smile Read more about Renaa: Xpress on http://www.restaurantrenaa.no/xpress.htm .
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

interior  Power_smoothie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slow service at Bølgen & Moi


I have been to Bølgen & Moi a couple of times before and to be honest I have had various experiences there (you can read my old review here and here). On a Friday afternoon we decided to grab some food before a movie and at about 5 pm we called Bølgen & Moi to make a reservation for 8 PM. We were told that they didn’t have a table at 8 PM but 8.30 could work and we accepted this. The location of Bølgen & Moi is great – located inside the oil museum and located on the waterfront in Stavanger, it has stunning views of the waterfront area. We came there at 8.30 and our waiter took us to our table – to my surprise there were lots and lots of table with no people and table that were not set! So I’m having problems understanding why they couldn’t accept our request to come at 8 PM.

As we were going to the movie at 10 PM we ordered the food right away – Nikki went for the tenderloin and I went for Norwegian clip fish and Nikki also ordered a glass of red wine. After a couple of minutes the waiter came back to inform Nikki that they didn’t have tenderloin after all but she could get entrecote. Then we started the waiting game – there were not that many people in the restaurant – I would guess 20 people or so. After a fair bit of time the waiter came back to serve the wine and he had already forgotten that it was Nikki who had ordered the wine. We waited a bit more and we got a small appetizer with some bread on the side – I guess they knew already that this would take time! The appetizer was not bad at all – a small potato and leek soup with bacon. Too bad Nikki couldn’t have it as she is lactose intolerant. In the end the waiter came back and poured some more wine in Nikki’s glass even if she had not asked for it so she was like “No, I only wanted one glass”. The waiter replied that it was on the house as the food was taking so long and she needed some wine to go along with the food.

So after about 1 hour we finally got the food – but by this time we were getting a bit stressed as we also needed a few minutes to get to the movie house. My clip fish was served with various vegetables and it was pretty good even if it was a bit on the salty side. The fish was served on top of mashed potatoes with the vegetables, mussels and bacon so it was a bit strange combination. But all in all it was pretty good. The fish was warm but as I said, a bit too salty. Nikki was not that lucky with her entrecote – the food was a bit lukewarm, the small potatoes that she got on the side were dry and parts of the steak were chewy.

Conclusion: I was not too impressed with Bølgen & Moi this time. I have no idea how to run a restaurant and I guess they have to run on a minimum staff if they don’t have that many reservations one evening. But I find it annoying that we couldn’t get a table at 8 was there was clearly tables available and hence we had to eat fast to get to the movies on time as it took close to an hour from we ordered until the food was served – it shouldn’t take that long guys. But I did enjoy my fish – too bad I didn’t have the time to really enjoy it. One glass of red wine was 99 kroner (18 USD) and our food cost about 500 kroner (about 90 USD).

When we asked for just tap water we were also asked if we wanted to support a drilling for clean water in Cambodia program that the restaurant is sponsoring – I think it is great that the restaurant gets involved in stuff like this and I hope the money will help improve people’s lives in Cambodia. The program is called “Vann til vann” and you can read more about it on the restaurant homepage http://www.bolgenogmoi.no/

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures